Sunday, May 3, 2009

Where are our priorities and principles?

This NYT article seems to be almost a direct response to the article Cooper wrote about. The US and other countries are seeking to spend millions of dollars on swine flu, a threat which has a death toll of 1 in the US and ~100 worldwide. The panic surrounding swine flu has caused numerous organizations to label it an ‘emergency’. Yet where is the political mobilization and alarm surrounding other killers? This year, 13,000 dead from ordinary flu, and 14 from guns in school. 25 dead in Mexico versus 6,000 dead from illegal drug trafficking in Mexico. Where is the state of emergency for these ‘chronic’ threats? One may argue that we don’t have the resources to respond to all these threats, but our response to swine flu clearly shows that we do but just don’t care enough. It’s a shame that we have grown so immune (pun intended) to these killers. The article brings up Dick Cheny's 2002 proposal to vaccinate the entire country against smallpox, arguing that Iraq may have bioweapons and use smallpox against the US. Luckily, he was not successful, especially because of the thousands of deaths that would have resulted and the lack of evidence of bioweapons in Iraq. The swine flu threat really reminds me of the War on Terror and other discussions on threat construction.

Another side of the article was prejudice. Cooper’s article brought up the frustration of the pork industry at their losses due to ignorance of how swine flu cannot be spread via pork, and now they want to call it Mexican Flu. It is infuriating to me how some people only care about prejudice when it is directed at them. In order to not perpetuate the myth that pork carries swine flu, let’s peg it on another carrier – Mexicans! Despite the fact that if you have not been to Mexico, you are not likely to be in contact with the virus, swine flu has fueled bigotry against an already marginalized minority group. Employers refuse to hire Mexican workers, and customers are avoiding Mexican restaurants. I can already see how it might turn into a biological argument about how the Mexican gene pool makes them susceptible to disease, harkening back to the days of eugenics. I think its funny how we talk of employment equality and lack of prejudice, but as soon as a pandemic hits, we go back on our word. I guess it takes a pandemic to expose the bigotry of our society that we usually cover up.

Swine flu has made its way into Corpus

No comments:

Post a Comment